Question of the Week
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Thanks to Susan Whitten for sending this great question! This is a very common question because the two do look a lot alike. It's very easy to confuse these plants. They both have similar palmately compound leaves with similarly shaped leaflets, and a slight red coloring on the petioles and the stem. Both are vines and both grow wild in Central Texas.
But a surefire way to tell them apart is that Virginia creeper has five leaves or more correctly, leaflets; poison ivy has only three leaflets. If you can remember the scientific name of Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quincefolia), you'll remember from the “quince” that Virginia creeper has five leaflets.
This is a wonderful native vine that works well as a groundcover to control erosion. It loses its leaves in winter but quickly rebounds in spring. Note: the producer uses this vine to cover the old 1950s clothesline T-posts. After painting the posts soft green, she wrapped them with chicken wire to support the young plants. Makes a very sculptural trellis at each end of the that bed!